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Manichitrathazhu film poster.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by
Produced by Swargachitra Appachan
Written by Madhu Muttam
Music by
Edited by T. R. Shekar
Distributed by Swargachitra
Release dates
  • 25 December 1993 (1993-12-25)
Running time
169 minutes
Country India
Language Malayalam
Box office 50 million
(distributor's share)[1]

Manichitrathazhu (English: The Ornate Lock) is a 1993 Indian Malayalam-language psychological thriller[2][3] film directed by Fazil, written by Madhu Muttam, and produced by Swargachitra Appachan. The story is based on a tragedy that happened in Alummoottil Tharavadu, a famous central Travancore family, in the 19th century.[4] The film dealt with an unusual theme which was not common in Indian cinema at the time but it proceeded to become the highest grosser at the box-office and it was critically acclaimed as well.

Directors such as Siddique-Lal, Priyadarshan, and Sibi Malayil served as second-unit directors. The cinematography was by Venu and it was edited by T. R. Shekar. The film has an ensemble cast featuring Mohanlal, Shobhana, Suresh Gopi, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Vinaya Prasad, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, Ganesh Kumar, Sudheesh, and Thilakan in the main roles. The original songs featured in the movie were composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan, and while the original score was composed by Johnson. The film won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment and Shobhana was awarded the National Film Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of the central character Ganga.

Apart from being the highest grossing Malayalam film of the year 1993,[5] Manichitrathazhu is considered as one of the best thrillers ever made in India as well as one of the best Malayalam films ever made.[6] Manichitrathazhu was remade after nearly 10 years in various languages, including Kannada (Apthamitra), Tamil and Telugu (dubbed) (Chandramukhi), Bengali (Rajmohol), and Hindi (Bhool Bhulaiyaa), all being commercially successful. Geethaanjali, a spin-off directed by Priyadarshan and Mohanlal reprising the role of Dr. Sunny Joseph, was released on 14 November 2013.


A young couple, Ganga (Shobana) and Nakulan (Suresh Gopi), arrives at the Nakulan's ancestral home tharavadu called Madampalli. Hailing from a family that follows tradition and superstitions, Nakulan's uncle Thampi (Nedumudi Venu) objects to the couple's idea of moving into the allegedly haunted mansion , which Nakulan ignores. The couple moves in, following which seemingly supernatural events begin to happen.

The mansion was occupied in ancient times by Sankaran Thampi, a cruel ancestor and karanavar (head) of the tharavadu. In his heyday, he had brought in a famous Bharatnatyam dancer Nagavalli from Tamil Nadu as his concubine. But she was already in love with a man named Ramanathan, a dancer. Learning of their affair and their plan to elope, Sanakaran Thampi murders Nagavalli in her room at the mansion. Legend has it that on the eighth day of the Durgashtami (an annual Hindu celebration), Nagavalli returned as a blood-thirsty spirit, intent on killing the chieftain and to drink his blood, but he was saved by chanting some mantras. With the aid of some sorcerers, Thampi somehow escaped from the wrath of Nagavalli. Her spirit was locked up in a section at the mansion (Thekkini) by putting the talisman over the lock. Later Sankaran Thampi committed suicide and his spirit is locked up in the same Thekkini, by means of an ornate enchanted lock called Manichitrathazhu.

Ganga manages to unlock the Thekkini, only to find ancient valuables such as jewellery, musical instruments etc. Upon learning about the unlocking of the Thekkini, fearing the spirits are on the loose, Nakulan's uncle Thampi and family move in to the mansion to try and re-seal the Thekkini lock, while also looking out for Nakulan and Ganga. However, various unclear sightings of a woman are witnessed around the mansion, along with attempted attacks on various people at the mansion, including Nakulan's cousin Alli and Ganga. While most of the family including Thampi believe that Nagavalli's ghost roams the mansion, Nakulan, disapproving of supernatural theories, suspects Sreedevi of being mentally ill, hence orchestrating the incidents at the mansion. Hearing of this, Thampi and the family fear that Sreedevi might be possessed by Nagavalli's spirit.

Sreedevi (Vinaya Prasad), Nakulan's cousin and Thampi's daughter, according to tradition, was to be married to Nakulan; however, after finding that Sreedevi had an ominous horoscope, Nakulan's mother withdrew from this proposal, and got Nakulan married to Ganga; later, Sreedevi entered a marriage which was short-lived. Sreedevi's tragic history, along with her perceived gloominess, and her being the only person present during an attack on Ganga, lays cause for suspicion of her.

Dr. Sunny Joseph (Mohanlal), a brilliant yet frolicsome Psychiatrist and Nakulan's close friend is called from the USA to investigate. Soon enough Dr. Sunny finds out that Nakulan's conclusions are not as obvious and he uncovers a plan to commit a murder during the upcoming Durgashtami Festival. Sunny's trained psychiatric mind begins to suspect that Ganga could well be the mental patient of Madampilly. He investigates Ganga's childhood and past. Ganga grew up in a highly superstitious family and had partaken in various religious rituals as a child. Her parents had left her to her grandmother as a 3 year old and never bothered about her due to their busy lifestyle. This made her sensitive as an individual; so when she came to know that her parents were moving her to Calcutta she was unable to come to grips with it. She had become very close to her grandmother and didn't want to leave her village and her ancestral home. It was a period of great emotional and psychological turmoil for her, and she became afflicted with multiple personality disorder. Madampilly with its share of superstitions and dark tales evokes memories of the childhood days in her, and she slowly develops the personality of Nagavalli after having sympathised with her.

Meanwhile, Nakulan's uncle, Thampi, having lost faith in Dr.Sunny, calls in a renowned tantric expert Pullattuparambil Brahmadattan Namboothiripad (Thilakan) to rid his family of the supernatural menace. As fate has it, both the Namboothirippad and Dr.Sunny are old acquaintances and mutually admire each other's expertise in their respective fields. At his own risk, Sunny reveals the secret to Nakulan and Mahadevan. In one of the more memorable scenes of the movie, Ganga also gets to know about her illness during a manifestation of her hidden personality, that of Nagavalli. Sunny, with help of the Namboothirippad, plans an elaborate Tantric ceremony to invoke Ganga's Nagavalli persona and make it believe that it will finally be able to kill Sankaran Thampi. The plan is put into action and in a fiery climax, the blood thirsty Nagavalli exacts revenge on the cruel Karanavar, Sankaran Thampi.

Ganga wakes up from her hypnotic sleep and learns that she is completely cured of the illness. Sunny expresses his intent to marry Sridevi, and they all drive off happily.



Dubbing credits[edit]

Shobana's voice was dubbed by two dubbing artistes—Bhagyalakshmi and Durga. Bhagyalakshmi dubbed Shobana for her voice for Ganga, while Durga gave voice to the character's alter-ego, Nagavalli. Nagavalli's voice is heard only in the minor part of the film when compared to Ganga's. Though Durga was not credited in the film or any of its publicity material; until 2016, for long 23 years since the film release, it was believed that Bhagyalakshmi solely voiced Shobana for both Ganga and Nagavalli.[7]

In January 2016, in an article Ormapookkal for Manorama Weekly published by Malayala Manorama, Fazil said, initially Bhagyalakshmi dubbed for both Ganga and Nagavalli. But during post-production, some of the crew including editor Shekar had a feeling that the voices for both the characters sounded somewhat similar, although Bhagyalakshmi altered her voice for Nagavalli. Since Nagavalli speaks in Tamil language, Fazil hired a Tamil dubbing artiste Durga for dubbing for her part. But Fazil forgot to inform it to Bhagyalakshmi, hence she was also unaware of it for a long time. Fazil did not credit Durga in the film credits; according to him it was a difficult job to make changes in the titles at that time, and her portion in the film was minor. The film was released with the already prepared titles which shows Bhagyalakshmi as the dubbing artiste for Shobana.[8] Other dubbing artistes were Anandavally and Ambili, who dubbed for Vinaya Prasad and Rudra.[9]


Major parts of the film and the climax scenes were filmed in Padmanabhapuram Palace and Hill Palace, Tripunithura.


The soundtrack for the film was composed by M. G. Radhakrishnan which went on to become one of the most popular film album in Malayalam. The album consists of eight tracks. The lyrics sung are in Malayalam and Tamil written by Bichu Thirumala and Madhu Muttam for Malayalam and Vaali for Tamil.[10]

Soundtrack album by M. G. Radhakrishnan
Released December 23, 1993
Recorded 1993
Kodandapani Audio Laboratories, Chennai
Genre Film Soundtrack
Length 64:50
Label Wilson Audios
Producer M. G. Radhakrishnan
M. G. Radhakrishnan chronology
Manichitrathazhu Devaasuram
No. Title Lyrics Singer(s) Length
1. "Pazham Tamil"   Bichu Thirumala K. J. Yesudas  
2. "Varuvaanillaruminn"   Madhu Muttam K. S. Chithra  
3. "Oru Murai Vanthu"   Vaali (Tamil), Bichu Thirumala K. J. Yesudas, K. S. Chithra  
4. "Kumbham Kulathil Ariyathe"   Bichu Thirumala K. J. Yesudas  
5. "Akkuthikkuthanakkombil"   Bichu Thirumala G. Venugopal, K. S. Chithra, Sujatha Mohan, M. G. Radhakrishnan  
6. "Palavattam Pookkaalam"   Madhu Muttam K. J. Yesudas  
7. "Uthunga Sailangalkkum"   Bichu Thirumala Sujatha Mohan  
8. "Oru Murai (Reprise)"   Vaali Sujatha Mohan  
9. "Varuvaanillarumee Vayizhe"   Madhu Muttam K. S. Chithra  


Contemporary reviews[edit]

Rating the film 5 out of 5, film website wrote that "Manichitrathazhu is probably one of the best psycho-thrillers [sic] produced in India. Fazil has done a great job in creating a fantastic movie which keeps the viewers glued to their seats."[11]

Film blog, in its review, wrote, "In this movie, the script by Madhu Mattom is the hero and Shobhana is the heroine. For a movie which is a psycho-thriller, it has excellent comedy provided by Innocent, Lalitha and Mohanlal. There are no unnecessary scenes in this movie and each scene in the screenplay sustains the interest in the story. M.G.Radhakrishnan has provided some memorable music for this movie."[12]

Indian entertainment website gives the film a full scale rating of 5 out of 5.[13]

Box office[edit]

Manichitrathazhubroke all the records in Malayalam cinema history till then and was also the highest-grossing Malayalam film of the year.[5] It ran for more than 365 days in 3 center Ernakulam Savitha, Thiruvananthapuram Sreekumar and Kattappana Sagara.[14] The film grossed over 7.5 crore from theatres.


Award Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
National Film Awards 41st National Film Awards Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [15]
Best Actress Shobana Won
Kerala State Film Awards 34th Kerala State Film Awards Best Film with Popular Appeal and Aesthetic Value Swargachitra Appachan, Fazil Won [16]
Best Actress Shobana Won
Best Makeup Artist P. N. Mani Won


Manichitrathazhu is hailed as one of the best films ever made in Malayalam cinema.[6] The film has consistently fetched maximum ratings for its television screenings.[6] Even twenty years after its release it has been screened more than 12 times a year on an average on Kerala's leading TV channel, Asianet.[6] The film has received the maximum TRP rating on every screening; TRP ratings have increased every year, a rare record for a film produced in Kerala.[6][17]

In a 2013 online poll by IBN Live, Manichitrathazhu was listed second in India's Greatest Film of All Time. The poll was conducted as part of the celebration of Indian cinema completing 100 years. The poll constituted a list of 100 films from different Indian languages.[5] As per the statistics of 2015, Manichitrathazhu is the most reviewed horror film ever in IMDb, surpassing Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) with 2517 reviews.[18]


  • Manichithrathazhu later inspired remakes and sequels in other languages, such as Apthamitra and its sequel Aptharakshaka in Kannada starring Vishnuvardhan, Chandramukhi in Tamil and Telugu (dubbed) starring Rajinikanth and its sequel in Telugu titled Nagavalli starring Venkatesh, Bhool Bhulaiyaa in Hindi and Rajmohol in Bengali.
  • The central character played by Shobhana is named Ganga in the all the remakes except Bhool Bhulaiya and Rajmohol. In Hindi, the character is named Avni, played by Vidya Balan whereas in Bengali, the character is named Deboshree, played by Anu Choudhury.
  • All three South Indian versions (Malayalam, Kannada and Tamil) earned the actresses playing the central character (Shobhana, Soundarya, Jyothika, respectively) the state awards for best actress of the respective states (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).
  • In Apthamitra (the Kannada version) the character of psychiatrist, played by Vishnuvardhan, is given more screen time. The Tamil version, Chandramukhi, followed the same pattern. Both films were directed by P. Vasu.[19] However, the Hindi version (Bhool Bhulaiyaa, directed by Priyadarshan) and the Bengali version (Rajmohol directed by Swapan Saha)stuck to the original script.[20]
  • The story was not credited to Madhu Muttam in Apthamitra and Chandramukhi, in which the story was credited to the director P. Vasu himself. However, in Bhool Bhulaiyaa the story was credited to Madhu Muttam, following a Kerala High Court verdict in a case filed by him.
  • Long before Telugu version Chandramukhi was dubbed, Manichithrathazhu was dubbed into Telugu as Aathmaragam.
  • Apthamitra's sequel, Aptharakshaka starring Vishnuvardhan was written and directed by P. Vasu and went on to become a huge success in Kannada.
  • P. Vasu also planned to remake it in Tamil as Chandramukhi 2. But as Rajnikanth wasn't available, he approached Ajith Kumar for the film. But the Tamil version could never make it to the sets and finally Telugu producer Bellankonda Suresh bought the movie rights and the movie was released as Nagavalli in Telugu starring Daggubati Venkatesh.

Character map of Manichitrathazhu and its remakes[edit]

Characters in Manichitrathazhu and its adaptations
Manichitrathazhu (1993) Apthamitra (2004) Chandramukhi (2005) Rajmohol (2005) Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007)
Malayalam Kannada Tamil Telugu (Dubbed) Bengali Hindi
Dr. Sunny Joseph
Dr. Vijay
Dr. Saravanan
Dr. Eeswar
Dr. Agni
(Prosenjit Chatterjee)
Dr. Aditya Shrivastav
(Akshay Kumar)
(Suresh Gopi)
(Ramesh Aravind)
(Prabhu Ganesan)
(Prabhu Ganesan)
(Abhishek Chatterjee)
Siddharth Chaturvedi
(Shiney Ahuja)
Ganga Senthilnathan
Ganga Kailash
(Anu Choudhury)
(Vidya Balan)
(Vinaya Prasad)
(Rachana Banerjee)
(Ameesha Patel)
(Innocent Vincent)
(Subhasish Mukherjee)
Batukshankar Upadhyay
(Paresh Rawal)


A spin-off titled Geethanjali was released on 14 November 2013.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Malayalam cinema faces a threat" (PDF). The Statesman. 1994-09-24. Retrieved 2011-03-16. 
  2. ^ "Made in Malayalam". The Times of India. 6 March 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  3. ^ "High five". The Hindu. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 9 July 2016. 
  4. ^ Social Mobility in Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict. Filippo Osella, Caroline. Pluto Press. 2000. p. 264. ISBN 0-7453-1693-X. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  5. ^ a b c IBN Live (12 May 2013). "'Mayabazar' is India's greatest film ever: IBNLive poll". CNN-News18. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Of Bhool Bhulaiya, and a classic dumbed down". 16 October 2007. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  7. ^ James, Anu (9 January 2016). "It wasn't Bhagyalakshmi who dubbed for classic character Nagavalli in Manichitrathazhu, director Fazil reveals". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  8. ^ James, Anu (11 January 2016). "Nagavalli-Manichitrathazhu controversy: Dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi, director Fazil break their silence". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 25 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  9. ^ Biscoot Regional (20 September 2013). "Manichitrathazhu 1993: Malayalam Full Movie | #Malayalam Movie Online | Mohanlal Movies | Shobana". YouTube. Biscoot Regional. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "Manichitrathazhu at MSI". Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "10 Mollywood films that ran for the longest time". The Times of India. Times News Network. 31 May 2016. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  15. ^ "41st National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Directorate of Film Festivals. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  16. ^ "State Film Awards". Department of Information and Public Relations. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  17. ^ "Manichithrathazhu has received the maximum TRP rating!". The Times of India. Times News Network. 17 November 2014. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  18. ^ Broadbent, Giles; Scott, Patrik (30 October 2015). "How many of these 100 best horror films have you seen?". The Wharf. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^

External links[edit]